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city known for its diversity the issue of public education and immigration go hand in hand. One of the most commonly cited reasons for immigration from any nation to the United States is educational opportunity for ones children, as a bid to increase both individual and future standards of living within the family. (Heer 183) Russian immigrants are no different than any other group, in this regard. Within recent years immigration from Russia to many locations within the United States is on the rise, and in New York City the same is true. (1996 census @ 517,000 Russians "New York City" Encarta Online Encyclopedia) Yet, with limitations on funding and curriculum limitation upon multilingual education many immigrants, including Russian immigrants in New York City find it difficult to count on the system to teach their children both linguistically and socially, those things which they will need to know in order to transition into a new culture and possibly thrive. (Rubin 25)
Major increases in immigration and the shift in immigrant origins over the past three decades have substantially changed the composition of New York City's Public Schools. Unlike their primarily European predecessors, today's immigrant students come from countries all over the world, speak a wide variety of languages, and present a range of educational needs and prior schooling experience. (Conger, Schwartz, Stiefel, 3)
The challenges to educators are great in a multicultural school but the funding in New York City schools and the sheer per-capita representation of minorities (especially new immigrants) makes the issue especially important. Foundationally one of the most important issues is greater understanding of the challenges and the special needs of the Russian immigrant child. Research must be conducted which increases knowledge and lays the groundwork for best practices with regard to multicultural education and multilingual representation in New York City Schools. The historical reality of the United States as a promising destination for immigrants must not break down within the education system. (Buenker and Burckel 92)
After the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. there has been a significant relaxation in the ability of many Russians to relocate. Their reasons are many; some do so as a response to war and ethnic strife and some simply to gain opportunity. There are also many who choose to relocate to avoid religious prejudices. A strong cultural bond is seen between immigrants and their homeland as well as their families and reconstituted communities within the United States. Though this bond allows for a cultural strength unlike that of many ethnic immigrants it also indicates a more likely use of Russian as the only language spoken at home. Children benefit from the bilingual nature of their upbringing but also face significant challenges with association to gaining sorely needed English proficiency. (Conger, Schwartz, Stiefel, 1-14) This can be seen in old as well as new immigrants as the cohesion among the group has been maintained since the first wave of immigration from the region in 1917. (Heer 43)
This could and often does mean that even second and third generation immigrants, differing from other ethnic groups, might be entering school with a very limited English base, as Russian is spoken almost exclusively in the home. With the enclaves of isolation, that are often present within a community as large and diverse as New York City many immigrants can live a life much like their previous life in Russia, working and learning in a English free environment, though it is rarely completely devoid of English is can be scares if the situation warrants it. The Russian enclave being traditionally the lower east side)
... many white Americans have maintained direct and strong ties with their European roots. They continue after many generations to draw meaning and pride from those connections. These people continue to refer to themselves as Irish-American, Croatian American, Italian-American, or Russian-American -- terminology that acknowledges the two sides of their identity. (Howard)
Some cultures, Russian being one of them are more likely than others to maintain a language usage policy within the home. Connecting their historical culture, for many generations through language.
The fight over the importance of bilingual education rages on, yet often leaves immigrants from non-Spanish speaking countries entirely out of the loop. Bilingual education, even as it is hotly debated serves the fundamental purpose of making sure that non-English speaking students to not fall behind their peers in other rudimentary subjects while they are learning English.
Bilingual education, a preferred strategy for the last 20 years, aims to teach academic subjects to immigrant children in their native languages (most often Spanish), while slowly and simultaneously adding English instruction.(1) In theory, the children don't fall behind in other subjects while they are learning English. When they are fluent in English, they can then "transition" to English instruction in academic subjects at the grade level of their peers. Further, the theory goes, teaching immigrants in their native language values their family and community culture and reinforces their sense of self-worth, thus making their academic success more likely. (Rothstein)
There seems not to be enough resources to offer bilingual education, in the non-majority minority groups even if it is eventually proven to be the best practice for teaching non-English speakers.
... There is ... compelling evidence that minority children often are more subordinated than their counterparts, that children's feelings of self-worth affect their learning achievement, that the social milieu of schools may induce a damaged sense of identity, and that the classroom which affirms and respects is more sanative than the one which rejects ... Conversely, when coherent multicultural content is pursued rationally and used to convey significant constructs, it can add materially to the intellectual vitality of instruction. (Rubin 25)
This distinct feeling of reduced self-worth based upon lack of perceived ability to interact within the learning context can, and often does seriously affect the immigrant learner. Additionally, the status as a non-majority minority within any region, including New York City, will cause the educational needs, by practice to be subverted for the cause of the Majority and larger minorities, doing the most for the largest group is often the standard in schools all over the country.
The complex dynamic of educational change is not easily bounded by educational policies ( Clune, 1993; Cohen, 1995; Elmore & McLaughlin, 1988; Elmore & Sykes, 1992). Actions by policymakers, educators, students, and parents, who are influenced by diverse and conflicting educational goals, can shape reform implementation in unpredictable ways ( Fullan, 1991; Louis & Miles, 1990; Sarason, 1990; Wise 1977). Social, political, and economic forces surrounding schools can also alter what goes on in classrooms and corridors and affect the change process ( Anyon, 1997; Oakes et al., 1997). Externally developed models may indeed prove their worth over time, but it is unlikely that they will be implemented exactly as reformers have designed them ( Ross, Smith, & Casey, 1997; Stringfield, Millsap, et al., 1997). (Yonezawa and Datnow 103)
Another significant issue may be not the ESL status of a Russian immigrant child, but the adoptive and pre-adoptive status, as there has been a recent trend for adoption of Russian children from stark institutionalization within Russia and other places in Eastern Europe. These children have been known to show significant risk for the development of social anxiety disorders, barring learning abilities in some. (Judge 244)
One big challenge may be the lack of recognition of the ethnic diversity involved as Russians may in most ways resemble their white classmates, yet in many ways have different learning needs, not the least of which is their need to learn to command the English language, both socially and educationally. Additionally, because of soften strong religious ties, be they Jewish or Orthodox intermarriage between Russian non-Russian peoples is often discouraged, further reducing the chance that…[continue]
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